Lobster pot shark fears

Taelor PeluseyAugusta Margaret River Times

Capes surfers are calling on the State Government to bring Cowaramup Bay in line with nine other popular surf zones in the region and prohibit rock lobster pots to prevent shark attacks.

The call comes more than 10 years after then-fisheries minister Kim Chance introduced rock lobster fishing restrictions at 12 gazetted surf zones along the Capes to stop surfers becoming entangled in fishing equipment.

After public consultations in 2005, the Department of Fisheries restricted commercial rock lobster fishing but allowed recreational fishing to continue in Cowaramup Bay, Hamelin Bay and Margaret River.

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Margaret River resident Tony Stevens said the department should revisit the decision, particularly in Cowaramup Bay, and cited concerns about sharks and accidental interactions with equipment.

“There are a lot of pots right near the surf breaks,” he said.

“I even had one wash in right where I was surfing the other day.

“Obviously they put bait in them to attract crays and I reckon a lot of people would have the same concern, that they could attract sharks.”

The fishing prohibition aims to prevent accidental interactions between equipment and surfers but some surfers now feel the Government should consider whether pots are attracting sharks.

Department of Fisheries regional manager south Russell Adams said 2005’s consultations found some areas were “less of a threat to surfers and preferred as safe areas for rock lobster fishing” and there were no plans to revisit the topic.

A Dunsborough-based surfer who asked not to be named told the Times Cowaramup Bay’s configuration meant its best waves were had in winter, but breaks such as Huzzas and South Point produced smaller waves in warmer months and were popular with tourists, beginners and children.

He said the Department of Fisheries could consider revisiting the topic to prevent shark attacks but he thought it unlikely others would speak up for fear of causing tension between fishers and surfers.

“A lot of surfers have cray pots too, so that makes it a bit tricky,” he said.

A Yallingup surfer and recreational lobster fisher said it was “crazy” to think how much bait was in the water and what it could be attracting.

Several other fishers and surfers declined to comment.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said she had not been approached by community members about the issue but she was open to discussions.

Mrs Mettam also pointed to the “enormous success” of beach enclosures in Busselton and Dunsborough as a shark mitigation tactic and reiterated her support for a beach enclosure in Gracetown, as reported by the Times in June.

Gracetown has been the site of three fatal shark attacks since 2004, with one occurring at South Point on the southern tip of Cowaramup Bay in 2010.

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